Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Don't Let Life Defeat You

Psalm 55:22

"Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."

I have always had a fascination with what can age a person. We can see it clearly in our lives. Ever notice how much Presidents age during their tenure in office? So often they go in with energy and youth and emerge four or eight years later with deep lines and grey hair.

Being overweight is my personal struggle, along with hypertension; I've had high blood-pressure since I was 17!

Lots of other things contribute to aging you: Lack of exercise, smoking, heavy drinking, avoiding fruits and vegetables. I've seen people who are vital and active at work start falling apart once they retire. They either become couch potatoes or simply check-out because they are no longer driven by the deadlines and positive challenges they experienced at work.

Work so often invigorates people because they feel useful and needed. Once people experience a life-changing event, such as the loss of a loved one, a career change, an unwanted diagnosis, all too often we see them decline rapidly.

Interestingly, there are some people who experience the very same events, but instead of letting things defeat them, they become supercharged and motivated! Michael J. Fox comes to mind: Here is a young man who was diagnosed very early in life with Parkinson's Disease, so severe he had to quit his acting career. But Fox decided to own his malady. He took on the challenge of increasing awareness and fundraising for Parkinson's research. He started his own Foundation to help those with the disease. The fact is, we know so much more about Parkinson's and how to treat it now than we did because of Fox's efforts.

I have seen people defeated by divorce and others who have made it their work to help others. Retirees who involve themselves in the lives of others do far better than those who just opt to do sedentary things. Watching games is one thing. Playing games is a better thing.

My point is for you to take actions to improve your life now before you are unable to later. Exercise your brain by reading, solving puzzles, writing, and discussing issues with friends and family. Exercise your body so that you don't just resign yourself to watching television. Resolve to eat better, instead of "dieting." The latter is a stress inducing temporary fix.

Above all, the secret to living well is to take God up on his offer to give him your burdens. Live invigorated, open, and righteously. That is your best way to spend the remainder of your days, however many or few that lie before you. Praise God in everything.

Monday, March 30, 2015


Daniel 11: 32-35

"With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. "Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time. "

There are two reasons someone embraces a cause. One, because they truly believe in it. The other reason can be less honorable.

When I used to work at a high-profile ministry, I met a man who could knock you over with his sincerity. He was a real story: He had no family, and he'd been on his own for quite some time. He became a successful businessman. Unfortunately, his partner had swindled him and took all the assets, leaving him destitute. He was a devout Christian, and a very sweet guy, and was just looking for another big break that would put him back on top again.

Unfortunately, it was all a lie. He was an accomplished con artist. The high profile and big crowds at the church made it possible for him to move about relatively easily without being detected. He had been to many events, and had his picture taken at several of them with the Pastor, so it looked like the two of them were close. He also put together a network of legitimate "friends"; folks who would know him, say hello to him, and call him by name, unaware that he was using them to give him a legitimacy. He knew the morning schedules of those who were on to him, and was able to find his way around without being sighted.

He would come and go. Usually when he disappeared it meant someone had been conned and he decided to lay low for a while. It caused the ministry a lot of trouble. We managed to tip off the police whenever we discovered he was working another parishoner, but every time he got arrested he would get off with a minimal sentence, and within a year he would be back to his same old tricks.

Christianity, because of it's stress on forgiveness, is especially vulnerable to these kinds of things. We want to believe people when they say that Jesus Christ changed their lives. But it is a sad fact that there are some out there who have no conscience, and can convincingly profess Christ, but with total insincerity. Other entities suffer as well: Many so-called minority leaders profess a commitment to the cause of equality, while misinforming their constituency regarding policies that seem so good, but actually work to the detriment of "their people." Why? Because what would a minority need with a leader, if members were fully functioning well within society? Keep them enslaved, keep them indebted to their leadership!

Today's column is to serve as a warning: We cannot afford the luxury of complacency. Be careful. Trust those who can prove their trustworthiness. Look beyond the surface and try to find the real people you deal with. Jesus went beyond the surface. He saw into people's hearts. With prayer, and carful observation, we can and must do the same. Don't take a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) approach to life.

You can be discerning without being judgmental. Look deeper, and act accordingly.

Friday, March 27, 2015

We Built This City on the Wrong Rock.

Psalm 62:7

"My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge."

Ever wonder where the term "Rock and Roll" came from? I think most people, if they had to guess, would say it started in the 1950's, but actually it goes back much farther.

In 1935, Henry "Red" Allen recorded a song with lyrics by Russel Robinson called "Get Rhythm in Your Feet and Music in Your Soul." It is the first pairing of the two words, etymologists tell us, with the lyric "If Satan starts to hound you, commence to rock and roll. Get rhythm in your feet and music in your soul "

The term rock came from old gospel music, where a person would be "rocked to the core" in a spiritual way. Roll was also a religious reference, where evangelicals would roll in the aisles, moved by the holy spirit. As the terms evolved, they began to pick up a double meaning, where "roll," became a euphemism for having sex (as in "roll in the hay"). "Rocking" came to mean to dance suggestively.

Small wonder then, that when the hot era of Rock and Roll music on the radio took over the airwaves, it freaked out a lot of conservative parents and pastors! Dancing, if it was allowed at all, was to be "civilized" and disciplined. Which does explain why my mother, even to her last days, felt a big loss with the decline of old-fashioned ballroom dancing. She would watch "Dancing with the Stars" with contempt. "That's not dancing," she would declare, and ignore the television.

Rock and Roll morphed over the next few decades, from ethnic street harmonies and Gospel remakes to Bubble-gum Pop, British invasion, and Hard Rock. In the 80's, Jefferson Starship came out with the ultimate Rock and Roll anthem with lyrics that summarized the rebellious feeling among rockers tired of Rock's hypocritical intolerant critics:

"Someone's always playing corporation games
Who cares they're always changing corporation names
We just want to dance here, someone stole the stage
They call us irresponsible, write us off the page
Marconi plays the mamba, listen to the radio, don't you remember
We built this city, we built this city on rock an' roll."

In rebellion, Rock becomes a voice against immorality. It sets itself up as a new morality: "All we want to do is dance and not play the corporate games of greed and corruption."

Ah but sadly, Rock and Roll itself is big business, and the hardest of Rockers have a reputation for being the bad boys and girls. It's hard to resist the draw of wealth and fame. Far too many have died living the "free life" of being stars. The things wealth and fame attract have killed many a musician.

It is too bad things have strayed so far from the original Rock of Ages. You can think you are okay, ignoring the real dangers of life. It would be nice if we could dance evil away... but that doesn't work out well.

We built this city, but on the wrong Rock. God is our mighty rock. We may seek salvation in trying to blithely dance away our cares away without seeking truth and honor. It cannot be done. Listen to His call. Let Him be your ultimate refuge.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Like A Bolt Out of the Blue

Philippians 4:6

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

A while back one of our readers told me a lesson he learned while out riding motorcycles one day with his brother.

They rode across desert hills, and wound up miles from anywhere. Topping a rise, they stopped for a moment to appreciate the vistas before them. But trouble was noticed almost immediately. A strange sound was coming from his cycle, and upon investigation he found it was the sound of air being sucked into the crankcase. He had lost a bolt out of the engine, and if it were to be turned off, all the oil would drain out immediately.

He had no options but to turn around then and there and go back, canceling the plans for the day... unless they could find that bolt. In desperation they left the cycle idling on its kickstand and started to walk back along the desert trail. How hopeless it seemed. Who knew where it might have fallen out?

Then his brother suggested that One DID know where the bolt was, and they should stop and ask Him for a little help. So they did, and bowing their heads they sent off a simple prayer. He felt a little silly: he basically believed that God helps those who help themselves and stopping to pray they were we wasting time. Then he realized that with his head bowed, he was looking down at the trail at his feet -- and there was the missing bolt!

God knows your troubles. Yes, pausing to pray about them takes time. But the hardest thing we have to learn is that when we take the time to include God in our plans, we give him the opportunity to reveal himself. In everything, present your requests.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Barking at Waterfalls

Psalm 55:22

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken."

We have written here about two of our dogs: Bentley (Bones), and Matti. We have a third dog, Molly, who belonged to my mother before she died.

Molly is a Doxie; a purebred that was given to her by my first cousin Rick, in Atlanta. Rick and his wife knew mom loved Dachshunds, and Rick wanted to do something special for Mom. So he found Molly at a breeder in Atlanta, and flew out to California with Molly on his lap. Molly's original name was Duchess, but the name didn't seem to fit her. Mom and my daughter Janel liked a character on West Wing named Molly, so Duchess was re-dubbed Molly.

Molly is a big barker. Our pool has a waterfall feature that comes on daily at 11:00 am. She barks when it comes on, and barks when it goes off. We found out Molly had an internal clock the week we drained the pool to replaster it. Even though the waterfall was turned off during the work period, Molly would run to the door at 11:00 am and start barking. We feel very fortunate that Molly protects us daily from the waterfall monster. To her, the threat is real, and no matter how I have tried to keep her from doing it, she continues her insane tirade.

There are lots of monsters out there, real and imagined. And likewise, there are Mollys everywhere yapping at us with dire warnings that doom is very near. I know that the world is a dangerous place. We live in scary times. But I also know that throughout my life, there have been countless of times we have been told that the end was near, only to have the deadline pass without incident.

Mark Twain is credited (perhaps incorrectly) for saying ‘I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.’ It is a quote I think about often whenever I have a feeling of dread for what may or may not be ahead.

When that happens, it is good to recall Psalm 55. In it, the writer tells us that all around him are enemies that seek his destruction. But in verse 22, he changes the tide of his remarks, saying that God will sustain us during those time that rattle us, and cause us dismay.

So, put your mind at ease. Go about today without fear, and think about righteousness. Strive to attain it. Learn from Molly's futile lesson. The water monsters we fear are most likely just imagined.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Paul's "Elevator Speech"

1 Timothy 1:1-3

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord."

I am Bob, a Christian and a writer, and I have this desire to tell people about God in ways that are not in your usual church language. I write to you, the various people who come to my blog site. I hope things are going well for you, and you have the peace that comes through understanding the gift of life given by Jesus Christ.

That's my personal version of Paul's greeting. In Paul's time, it was commonplace to introduce yourself fully whenever you wrote a letter, so that you give the reader the honor of knowing the writer more completely. It was customary to say who you were, to whom you were specifically writing, and you stated your business up front.

These days, things are a little more, strike that, a lot different. We communicate in different ways now. Back then, if you wanted to express an idea, you had limited methods. If you could write, that was one option. If you couldn't, you needed to get someone to write for you. Or you could try illustrating by artistic expression. Other than that, your only other option was to speak to the person directly, and over long distances, that was impractical.

Today we have all kinds of ways to send messages, as you well know. Internet, television, videos, texting, calling, video chatting... the options are endless. So now, we are inundated with all types of messages; some desired, some not. Daily we filter these messages to glean out the good stuff. And in turn, the messages have tried to be more creative over the years.

So now, we get emails, advertising, links, and videos that may not be as up front about the end-message as we once had. The message has to have some sort of hook, to grab your attention. Take television ads, for example. Often is the time I watch in my alpha-state stupor, as the big screen offers message after message. But occasionally, a particularly clever ad gets my attention. That's good, mission accomplished, the advertiser may think. But then, does the ad sometimes fail to deliver the message? I can think of countless ads that I think are clever, but in retrospect, I have no clue what product the ad was promoting. Fail!

We have seen earlier this lent that Paul has one very important message he wants us to remember: Be clear in what you communicate! If your words say one thing, but your behavior contradicts those words, you do the message more harm than good! Your actions could completely contradict the message of love, peace, repentance, and change brought about by Christ.

But part of that clarity comes only if you are clear in your own mission. I found when I wrote my version of Paul's greeting above that it really required some thought. What am I really trying to do here?

And so it should be. We need to "write our introductions" no matter what we are doing. Give yourself the advantage of having ready your own "elevator speech." How can you represent yourself best if called on to give a summary. Call it your mission statement, if you like. You will find it will help you in any endeavor you take on.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Practicing Self-Control

Titus 2: 1-8

"You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us."

It is interesting when we get a bit of a glimpse into the world and culture of the earliest church. It was clearly a world where a woman's role was inside the home, and the man was one who would go out and earn for the household.

I think a lot of people get the wrong impression about what biblical passages contain. I don't think it was proscribing that those roles continue as such for the sake of God's will, as the writers, Paul here, were writing to the world they lived in. So his instructions are all addressed to people in the role he saw them performing. I don't think it occurred to him that things might change over the centuries. He was talking to a world he knew, and one based on previous centuries of the same.

But times change, and not only are women as much in the workplace as men are these days, but likewise there is a strong movement of men who have become the home nurturers. We could discuss all day long about how this came to pass, and how much more change people would like to see, but I'd like to look at the instructions themselves.

Frankly, the teaching for each of the mentioned groups is the same: Practice self-control! "Teach older men to be... self controlled." Teach older women to not do the common un-controlled actions, like slandering and drinking. They in turn should teach "younger women to ... be self-controlled..." Young men, be... self-controlled. If I were a betting man, I'd bet the theme here is actually for us to be... and this is a big guess here... self-controlled?

It's pretty clear that Paul sees self-control as the key to living a life of shining example to the rest of the world, so as not to give ammunition to those who would try to find reasons to malign Christians.

I wish we had more self-control in our world today. We aren't always the best examples to the world when we join in the popular culture trash sessions. Let's face it: this is a glorious era for the gossip mill. We love to talk smack about celebrities, friends, and groups other than our own. Political parties, religious beliefs, even cross-denominations, we often lack the integrity to keep our opinions to ourselves.

Paul, who was actually aware that he wasn't a very good speaker for reasons not revealed, makes a very big deal about being the kind of people who, when we speak, we are clear about what we are saying. He repeatedly urges us to keep on point with our message, not only with our words but with our actions too.

Lent is a time for refinement. An opportunity to reexamine ourselves and come out revised, rejuvenated, reborn and simply better than before. Practicing self-control is something I really need to work on. I hope this speaks to you as well.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Is It Our Job to Judge?

1 Timothy 1:9-11

"We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me."

There are sometimes when I am uncertain what I am going to write about here on Internetspirations. I try very hard to avoid putting my own spin on any scripture. I try to understand its teaching, and then I try to find a new way to talk about it. Sometimes I write a topic and then check to see if scripture backs it up. More than once, I have found what I wrote to be wrong, because the scripture I find on the subject demonstrates very firmly that I need to reconsider my position.

My preferred way is to write on something that I am involved in studying, but right now, I confess, I'm not studying anything in particular. That's when I go for the random verse: I go to Bible Gateway, and see what the verse of the day is. So when I did that today, 1 Timothy 1:9-11 came up, and I said, "Oh no. I don't want to go there!"

I considered trying again for another random verse, but that's the chicken way out. No. I need to think about it here and now. So here we go, diving headlong into a verse that lists a number of sins, and there in the middle Peter lists practicing homosexuality. And it is sitting with some pretty bad company; Mother and Father killers! Slave Traders! Murderers! Liars! In an era where listing homosexuality as a sin can get you labeled a pariah and homophobic, addressing it isn't likely to win me friends in the gay community.

Well, here's the thing: The list isn't mine. And I am not about to condemn anyone for being gay, as I have several family members and friends who are. They are wonderful people, many of them people who call themselves Christian. Even this week the Presbyterian Church of America changed their playbook to allow gay marriage. So what's the deal? Is Peter just wrong?

One thing I can tell you for sure: condemnation isn't my thing. There are a lot of folks out there happy to pass judgement, but to them I always ask if they are as fast to judge adulterers, liars, cheats, thieves, and others as sinners as they are gays? It just all seems more heavy-handed for homosexuality than it is for other types of sin. And actually, is it a sin?

Well, it certainly was considered a sin during Peter's day. And in many countries today, being Gay can get you thrown in jail or killed. Plus, I am sorry to say there are plenty of gay people around today who do their best to make it an act of rebellion against the moral fabric of society. Meet-up parties for people to have random, anonymous sex are common today. Heck, there's even an App for it. But does that mean all loving relationships between people of the same gender are the same?

All I can tell you is that you have to look within yourself in prayer to determine what God wants for you. For me, I have to tell you, there are certain aspects (like the App) that I just cannot endorse. But what about committed, loving relationships between two people of the same gender? Marriage? I have a heterosexual one. That's the only one I need to address. When my younger daughter called to introduce me to the love of her life (a woman), I was easily able to accept it. It was her life; not mine. She is in a place, as a Christian, where she is fine with it.

What I can tell you is what the major theme of the verse is, and it isn't there to condemn any of the listed sinners and keep them out of the church. No, instead it tells us just the opposite. The law was given to all people, because who of any of us can claim to be sin-free. God's word is for everyone, in spite of any way they may be out of sync with what Peter calls the sound doctrine.

You may agree with me, or not. Either way, leave your comments (please be civil). Disagreement between Christians isn't anything new. That's why we have hundreds of separate denominations. I do think it is a little sad that we have to divide ourselves up according to our disagreements. If Peter is willing to extend the church to include all these sinners, who am I to stand in the way?

I'll leave the judgement part up to God.

The Free Things In Life Are Best

Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."

I have good news: There are still some great things that as yet are not illegal!

I know. It's been a rough decade. It seems that everywhere we turn someone is doing something that flies in the face of some tradition we hold dear. Respect for many of the things we have long held as American rights are slowly being eroded away. Our freedom becomes reduced because there is an increasing number of people who think that "fairness" is something that can be regulated by law.

What they fail to see is that countless of other nations before us have had the same idea, and the results have failed because there will always be those who will take more, in the name of "fairness."

I was in a country in turmoil a few years ago, and I noticed that there were some very large stores, but no one was inside buying anything. I asked my friend why this was, and she told me that the stores were owned by the criminals in the government. Only they were allowed to sell because of favors done for their political comrades. As a result, they would charge outrageous prices for things, knowing that there was no competition allowed. So people only bought from them as a last resort. Legislated fairness only benefited a few. The rest of the country lay in squalor.

Fortunately, it is not to late for us. There are still values we can celebrate today. We can still love each other, find joy, practice forbearance and kindness. We can strive for goodness, and be faithful to those to whom we have made promises. We can be gentle in our actions, and above all, we still can practice self-control. I think the world would be hard-pressed to make laws requiring the practice of any of these things, and these are the best part of being alive... especially as Christians.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Want to Go For a Ride?

Romans 15:13

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

I have a dog named Bentley. I call him "Bones" because when I first met him the poor guy was nothing but skin and bones. That was three years ago, and while he still maintains a slim physique, he is no longer the frightened, abandoned dog we first knew.

In brief, Bones is my guy. No matter where I go, he is most likely nearby. Here in my office he is sleeping right now on an ottoman right behind my chair. At night, he gets as close to me as he can, sometimes to the point where I have very little bed space left. For a small, ten pound pup, Bentley Bones makes his presence known.

But he is also the gentlest dog I have ever known. When I am writing at my desk, occasionally I will feel the gentlest of brushes against my leg. He never paws or scratches. Instead he just brushes his curly coat of hair on my leg, as if to say "Hi. Don't want to interrupt you, but if you have the opportunity, I could use a little affection." His demeanor is primarily calm and quiet, but if he senses danger, his bark is the toughest one in the house... including mine.

Bones loves to go for a ride. In fact, you can barely say those words without him going bananas. Then once in the car, he tries to sit in my lap or on the middle console. Oh what joy! Each car ride is the greatest ride ever! It is the thing he loves most of all, even above eating. Sometimes it is hard to get him to come into the kitchen to eat breakfast, if there is even a tiny chance of going for a ride. His tan eyes are filled with anticipatory hope, just waiting for me to tell him "Okay."

We are encouraged in Romans to have the same hope when it comes to living our lives in Christ. To be quite honest, I seldom see that kind of behavior in people. We keep our emotions in check, lest we be perceived as a total dweeb about our faith. One exception: I DO see it in my daughter. She is an amazingly honest Christian, who actually has a reputation among her friends of being the one to bring party to the party. Her sense of joy and hope is infectious. It is a blessing for me to see, and it is clear that the lives she touches agree.

Let us all strive to be hopeful and joyous. There is plenty of negative input in the world. Let's live our faith and be different. Be joyous. Be at peace. Overflow with hope as you trust in Christ. It is a journey of Joy. Get excited to "go for the ride."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Give Up if you Must, But Don't Give In.

Ephesians 6:10-18

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

We live in times where the threat against the Christian Church is once again on the rise. There are an increasing number of anti-Christian groups doing their best to snuff out every last trace of Christianity, along with any other faith that disagrees with their own sick and twisted view of the world. Stopping them is a seemingly impossible task.

Each of these groups have their own leaders who dictate and encourage these actions, who are very good at manipulating their followers into doing their bidding. But just as in the story of Hercules, if you move to cut off the head of the monster, it seems that two more pop up to take its place. Hercules found an answer: when he cut off a head from the Hydra, he seared the wound with a torch, and it was unable to sprout a new set of heads. The lesson the ancient Greeks were teaching was that any impossible task is doable; you just have to do the job completely.

There are those who will tell you that we are facing the end of days, as foreseen in scripture. That may be true. Or it may just be another flare-up of the same old pestering problem where sick, twisted, evil and sometimes just dim-witted leaders rile up their followers to wreak havoc across the holy land. Certainly, given the weapons available these days, the consequences are staggering. Either way, the results are fearsome and demoralizing. The implications of a world wide conflict are depressing and frightening. So what do we do?

The apostle Paul is quick to put things in perspective. The real conflict isn't so much against the individuals as it is against the spiritual forces of evil. Yes, those individuals can and do cause a great deal of harm, and we may be forced to face such evil ourselves some day. Maybe in a big way, like a global conflict. More likely in a more personal conflict, like fighting a disease, or a rift between family or friends.

But Paul also tells us what we can do to prepare for it: Put on the Armor of God. Know his word. Focus on the heavenly realms. Pray. Be firm in your belief. Be more certain and protected in your relationship with God that the heart of the murderers and terrorists in this world. Put on the FULL armor. Know the things driving your faith and use them to stand against the foe.

Acclaimed lyricist Nan Knighton captured that spirit of courage saying this:

"There will always be perilous waters
Which someone must sail
Into valleys, into waters
Into jungles, into hell
Let us ride, let us ride home again with a story to tell
Into darkness, into danger
Into storms that rip the night
Don't give in, but give up
But give thanks for the glorious fight"

So take on the full armor. Be prepared for any sinful attack against your faith. That is your best protection. And even if you find that in your personal battle, the foe becomes the victor and you have to give up... Don't give in! Keep on believing in the greater power, and give thanks for the glorious fight. You belong to Christ eternally.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dressing in God's Style

Colossians 3:12

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

They say clothes make the man, and for me, the clothes come from my wife, Gwen, who is nothing short of a genius at the sewing machine. She made her wedding dress, prom dresses, sock monkeys, animal toys, quilts, wall hangings, barbecue covers, Christmas stockings and much more. But I really benefit the most, because she makes nearly all of my shirts.

She makes all kinds of them, but I think the ones I get the most compliments on are my Hawaiian style shirts. I was frustrated at trying to find comfortable sports shirts in my size that looked like something one could wear in public. So Gwen found a pattern or two, and then we went shopping for some decent fabric.

Over the years she has tweaked her pattern to take into account all the details I prefer: They are a little longer than most without looking like I am wearing a smock, They have perfectly matched pockets... even the buttons are placed specifically where they work best for me.

I constantly get positive comments about them, and I always tell them thank you, and let them know my loving wife created each one. Some are fun, some are classy... I even have one special one created just for Hallowe'en. There are wine themes, Christmas themes, fall colors and even one with Route 66 images, for those road trips! Each one is amazingly cool looking, and they give me a good feeling to wear them.

So much so, I am spoiled. Now when I have to wear a shirt that Gwen didn't make, I feel less-dressed, and trashy. Gwen's shirts fulfill my sense of style!

Today's verse tells us about other things to clothe ourselves in: Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. These are gifts from God; ways of being that reflect the significant traits of a Christian. When we go out into the world, we want to reflect these traits over the other things people might see.

You've certainly heard about Christians who put Jesus stickers on their cars and then drive horribly. Do they not know that people really do judge Christians by our behavior?

So clothe yourself in the traits spelled out for us here. We may have our own style; but let us work to present the Lord's.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Losses and Gains: What Really Matters?

Phillipians 3: 7-9 "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. "

A few years ago I left the University of Ca, Irvine to take care of my mother who had been diagnosed with dementia. I thought I would work from home, and I got the idea to start a Christmas decoration business. I learned a great deal, and frankly, as new business ventures go, I was able to figure out how to obtain ornaments from Ukraine, and even though it took a while to figure out all the intricate details of importing goods, I had a worthy supply of the ornaments for a fairly low investment.

Ah but there was so much I didn't know in the sales department, and I was spread too thin trying to buy, import, sell, ship, invoice, etc. After about four years I closed the business. Now I have thousands of Christmas ornaments in storage; beautiful, hand-painted orbs of Christmas joy, and I am unable to unload anywhere. I've tried all sorts of things, and I will keep on trying, but what was once a great asset I now count as a large loss.

Don't cry for me though; I am okay with it. Eventually we'll find a buyer or two. It makes me wonder how those guys on the storage auction shows get rid of the things they find. I'm pretty sure they have people who do nothing but find buyers for forgotten inventories. My daughter says she has an idea for selling them, and we'll give her a shot at it (We welcome your suggestions too, by the way)!

Sometimes we fill our lives with things that seem important at the time, but end up having little or no value. More than just tangible objects, we fill our lives with thoughts and activities that ultimately yield very little long-lasting value. We live when leisure time is at an all-time high, but at the same time, there are thousands of people who are without work, homeless, hungry, and without an education. How much money does a hit movie make? Hundreds of millions, and often over a billion! Imagine what would happen if the local food banks received such funding.

Eventually we will all come to an end to our lives, and beyond that, Christians believe in life after death in union with Christ for eternity. Others believe in reincarnation, and some say that life now is all there is, and once you die, lights out. Whatever the final scenario turns out to be, there is still this thing called life right now.

Human endeavors, even the greatest of books, monuments, and ideas all fade away. Even scientific progress seems to need to be "rediscovered" from time to time. So what does that leave for us? I believe we need to spend this time finding out what really matters. For me, pursuing a relationship with God seems tantamount in importance. Passing on my thoughts to you is part of that pursuit.

Whatever you decide, it is never a bad idea to examine the things that occupy your mind, and re-prioritize to higher purposes. Assess if the things you are doing now are your best use of time, and then act accordingly. Consider a more spiritual approach to life.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Maddie Goes Swimming

Proverbs 22:3 and Proverbs 27:12
"The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty."

Every morning my wife gets out of bed first and takes our dogs out back. Sometimes I wake, sometimes not. This morning I got out of bed at the same time, and was about to get dressed when I heard a commotion out back; our youngest dog, Maddie fell into the pool!

Now Maddie is a funny little Yorkie. She is a rescue we've had for about a year. When we got her, she was completely wild. She had been a puppy-mill breeding dog, and had never experienced any kindness, as near as we could discern. Over the year, she has really responded well to our affection, and has become a very loving pup to us. She needs work with others, but we are amazed at all she has learned. Her protective instincts are strong, as she tries to distance herself from danger. That's not always the smartest choice, but usually the easiest.

She has this one dangerous habit. She will always walk along the edge of the pool. So when Gwen took her out this morning, Maddie got in trouble. The forecast for today was for high winds. Gwen turned her back on Maddie for a moment to crank in the awning. the noise startled Maddie, who jumped back... and thus took an early morning swim.

Fortunately Gwen was there to rescue her, but whether Maddie learned an important lesson from the experience only time will tell. Hopefully next time she is in the yard she will start giving the pool a larger buffer-zone.

The verse we quote today is interesting in that it appears twice in fairly close proximity in the book of Proverbs. Repeated text is not that unusual in the Bible, but it is interesting to note that the writer uses it twice indicating he places value in its teaching. You can see why in my illustration of Maddie's morning dunking. Her initial reaction, the simplest one that relied on her instincts, got her in deep water. In time she will learn that a more prudent, thoughtful approach might be of value.

We often react before we think. You can probably envision situations in your own life where you wish you had thought things through a little better. You may also find that certain activities lead you to stray from living the life you should. Avoiding the things that lead you astray and into danger may be the first step in beating the obstacles that cause you to stumble. Experience teaches us to be less reactionary, and more careful. Think about how you can avoid or better prepare for dangers that lead you to make the wrong response. Set up your refuge; your "buffer-zones." Identify the things that lead you astray. Set yourself on a course to higher goals. Be more mindful, and you will have a better chance to succeed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Human 2.0, or Christianity Explained

Romans 6: 1-4
"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

My wife, Gwen, and I were discussing the point of my last writing, where I spoke about how it was impossible for humans to live a "Holy" life. And as is often the case, I realized I left a good part of what I believe out of the discussion. I realize that I was essentially making the argument that sets up chapter six of Paul's letter to the Romans. Being human, it is impossible for us to live sin free. So do we just keep on sinning?

You can see how the idea might find footing; If God, through the act of His Grace, forgives our sins, then doesn't it seem like the more we sin, the more grace we get?

Paul makes the case that if we, in true repentance for our human flaws, come to accept the gift of forgiveness, the forgiveness is a complete package, covering both the sins of our past, but also the sins of our future.

As someone who is trying to be an instrument of clarity on Christian philosophy, I do not want to write anything that would take away the real simplicity of the Christian message. There's plenty of that going around already, as misguided pastors, filmmakers, secular publishers and even atheists try to explain Christianity. I've written this before, and I will continue to believe that Christianity is really a simple faith to understand. But you also have to accept a few premises to the argument:

  • First,that God is real
  • Second, God has moved toward man in love.
  • Third, he became a man (flesh incarnate in church-speak) in the person of Jesus Christ.

    If you can open your mind to these three ideas, then understanding the faith called Christianity is easy. The Bible is essentially a gathering of inspired documents that chronicle God's relationship with man. Oh, it says a lot more about him, such as being the creator of the universe, his omnipotence, his constant presence, and so on, but the main theme is about our mutual relationship.

    First, he creates our world, and delegates responsibility for it to man (a task for which we're just beginning to understand the magnitude). We immediately show we are flawed, but rather than toss us away like the first batch of bad waffles, he decides to do something amazing. He says, "I can work with this."

    So man gets to thinking we're pretty hot stuff, and we tend to forget him. So God tells us this:

    "Okay, I am going to let you grow. Become a nation. Try to run yourselves. You will forget me. So I will give you some rules to follow. You'll forget them too. You want a king to enforce those rules for you? Sure, I'll give you one if you think that will help. It won't. You see, I know you. And I know your flaws. "

    "So here, I'll make you a deal. After you've tried all these other things, I will come to earth in the form of a son. And yes, I know you: you will find a way to kill him too. But here's the thing: When you do try to turn your back on me again, this time you will fail. That son is going to live, despite your flaws. He is going to take on all your sins, all your shortcomings. You will insult him, strip him, humiliate him, hate him, make fun of him, beat him, and nail him to a tree. Even then you will taunt him, drain out his blood... every horror man can heap on him, you will do."

    "And after all that, He (I) will forgive you. "

    "Even then, after he comes back to life, after he walks among you a second time, most of you won't recognize him. After a while, He'll come home to me."


    "A few of you will realize what happened. A few of you will understand. And my deal is this: In spite of your sins, all you have to do is accept who Jesus is, admit your sins, and accept his forgiveness. If you do that, then You and I are going to be fine. You will be a new version. 'Human 2.0,' if you will. No longer bound by the sins and errors of your way, the old you dies as Jesus died. Your life is now new, changed, and amazing. Not just for this world, but for eternity."

    So, now, as a Christian, you are a new creation. That should inspire you to become more like Christ. We "press toward the mark", as Paul goes on to write to the Phillipians.

    Yes, even then, you will still fail. But now you know those failures (hopefully fewer and farther between) are forgiven.

    So embrace the new you. You have been given a great deal of forgiveness and acceptance, and most of all, eternal love. It should inspire you to do the same for others you meet. Instead of passing judgement, you understand. You give up condemnation for loving.

    You are a new person. Show the world what God would want you to be.

  • Monday, March 9, 2015

    What Really Is A Holy Life?

    2 Timothy 1:9
    "He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time"

    Of course the question that begs to be asked from this scripture is "exactly what constitutes a 'Holy Life?'"

    There are thousands of people who would give you a pretty radical view of what constitutes a holy life. Take a look at a lot of the terrorists: There are those who would tell you that their motivation is to become holy; to earn favor with Allah or God (remember not all religious terrorists are Muslim), and they act to cleanse the world of the unfaithful.

    Well, if truth be told, what is really happening is that a large number of weak-willed people allow themselves to believe a bunch of religious justification for horrible acts at the bidding of evil leaders. They tell their blind followers to do something in the name of a diety. Maybe they are motivated by some screwed-up sense of religious obedience. Usually though, it is more about having power, at the expense of innocents.

    But that's the most extreme level of how people think they are living "holy lives." It often comes dressed in far more subtle ways. I am often at a loss to explain why homosexuality is the preferred sin to justify condemnation of people in church communities. I've been at churches where gay staff members and ministers have been rejected by senior staff in a church, who in turn have affairs with their secretaries, steal from the offering plates, and callously destroying lives around them. I cannot begin to count the highly visible celebrity ministers who have been brought down by their own indiscretions. But they never seem to learn. They often resurface, outwardly penitent, but every bit as judgemental as before.

    Or would a holy life be someone who likes to pray publicly, insist on everyone observing their holidays as they scoff those of other cultures? Or how about the "recovered alcoholic" who is quick to condemn someone else for having a glass of wine with dinner? Prevaricators, Polluters, Pornographers, and Politicians all hold their heads up higher than everyone else around them, so they can be admired, idolized and imitated. They play off the envy of their peers, and promote themselves shamelessly.

    I think it's pretty clear: a lot of people leading "Holy Lives" are simply playing "holier than you." I think it just isn't so. I don't believe anyone, not even the "holiest" of us on earth can stand before God and say they live a holy life. Why is that, you ask? Because we're all fallible, mortal, humans. Everyone has at least one downfall, and most of us have several. We want things that we cannot afford, we seek approval from others, we crave fame or money or care more for our pets than people we know. Thousands of sins, those errors of judgement and hurtful decisions we made can never be erased.

    Holiness is not something we can attain by ourselves. The term assumes there is, somewhere, some entity that has the right to confer that judgement upon us. I mean, why would holiness be a desirable attribute if it simply means we obtained such status in the eyes of someone who is equally flawed as we are.

    No, a holy life isn't something we can make happen. But that's not to say we cannot have a holy life. The crazy thing is though, the only way to get it is to realize we cannot make it ourselves. It is when we acknowledge that we are flawed, and that only through the forgiveness of the completely un-flawed, can we be made holy. That's what the term "Grace" means. God, the perfect entity, grants us status as "made holy" and our shortcomings are overlooked.

    If nothing else comes out of this season of Lent, let this be the thing you gain; the knowledge that God, by coming to earth as one of us, understands our sins (flaws), and forgives them. No radical act, no rebellious movement, no act of valor or generosity on our part will ever erase your transgressions. What was done is done, and cannot be undone. But in God, it doesn't matter. Give it a try. Give him the chance to make you holy.

    You will live the better for it.

    Thursday, March 5, 2015


    Deuteronomy 6: 6-7
    "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

    Here's the problem with little blogs like mine: I may be wrong.

    I know. When one writes what they hope to be an inspirational piece, you want to impart some great truth of the world. But the fact is, I could have it all wrong. I'm pretty sure I have a couple things I believe that are probably incorrect.

    So I have a disclaimer I like to impart every once in a while: If you think I am wrong, please tell me. Let's talk about it. I have had several people tell me they disagree with me over the years. Some have done it gently, others not so much. But if I am wrong about anything I write, I like to encourage my readers to share their thoughts. I welcome comments and I read them all. I seldom delete comments, unless someone is just absolutely over-the-top foul, hateful, or otherwise downright nasty. But I still read them. I do try to understand, and I do re-examine what I write and think at your urging.

    Once or twice I have been convinced. I change my view, and have even deleted entries I determine to be wrong, thanks to your input, or that nagging little voice God puts in my ear to reconsider.

    There is a popular text abbreviation people use these days: IMHO. In My Humble Opinion. But I have come to realize that in many cases, the opinions expressed are far from humble ones. I have seldom seen anyone's mind get changed in any online discussion. It just doesn't happen. In most cases, IMAO would be more appropriate. In My Arrogant Opinion.

    The scripture quote I posted above was the quote of the day on BibleGateway.com. I didn't set out to find a verse to twist it to match what I write. I try very hard to not do that. Instead, what I write is usually in reaction to a verse I read, and so today I was led to the topic of discussing matters of faith. Thus, my intro.

    To me, Internetspirations have been a place where I can go to express myself open and honestly. Occasionally something will happen that will trigger a thought. Often the craziest things, like some reaction my dog has, or one of my weird dreams will set me to writing. Along the way, I learn.

    Internetspirations has been online since 1995 in one form or another, and over the past 20 years, I have learned a lot from it. I hope you have found it thought provoking too. Hopefully, every writer learns from taking the time to put pen to paper... or keyboard to blog sphere.

    Matters of faith need to be discussed. There are some powerful voices in the world that seek to shut out voices of faith other than their own. Read the Bible, read discussions, talk about what you read with friends and family, and be open to hear the truth, even when it disagrees with your first understanding. That's the only way thoughts transform from simple words on the page to actually making a difference in your life. Trust God's word that the truth contained therein is strong enough to stand against the tides of popular opinion.

    I believe in its integrity. IMHO. Really.

    Tuesday, March 3, 2015

    Avoid Joining the Stampede

    Proverbs 15

    A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
    The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
    The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
    The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit

    No rational person seeks to stir up anger. Someone who is angry is unpredictable; there are many directions they can take to vent their feelings.

    That's not to say there are people out there who don't enjoy stirring the pot. Just because it is irrational, there are still those who enjoy doing it. And those who do incite anger can often help direct the flow of the reaction they create, because even though some individuals may not choose to vent in the expected manner and follow their prodding, often times enough people follow to make it worth the inciter's effort.

    Ever watch a stampede? One of my favorite movie scenes in the old classic "How the West Was Won" shows a herd of buffalo incited to stampede toward a railroad construction site. Buffalo, by nature simple, grass gnawing beasts, are incited through fear to plow over train cars and water towers; driven to this crazy behavior because they were incited and directed down to the job site.

    Of course the best way to see the scene is in the manner for which it was filmed: Cinerama, which was basically three cameras lined up to make a super-wide screen that wraps around the viewer. It was early Hollywood tech to simulate a virtual "You Are There" experience. So it comes as no surprise that in the widest visual perspective of the scene, you can see more than what was intended. And yes, in the middle of this wild, crazy stampede, you can look off to the side of the screen and see one or two animals walking along casually, refusing to go along with the madness. (At the time the scene was shot, the buffalo were actually cattle in make-up. The endangered bison were too few in number to play themselves. They had stand in actors instead)!

    But the point is, even when those who would stir us to anger manage to sway a large portion of the population, you don't have to join the stampede.

    I think there are times to act on our anger, but I also think that when we are angry, it becomes hard for us to determine just how much reaction is too much. That's why the psalmist encourages our hearts to choose a gentle answer in the face of wrath. Now, I've been around long enough to realize that doesn't always work. Sometimes a gentle word doesn't stand up against someone who is just crazy wicked. We've probably all tried at some point to turn the other cheek, only to have it slapped harder than the first.

    But the takeaway here is that harboring a spirit that chooses knowledge over folly, life and peace over the perverse voices in our world is the ultimate winner.

    This Lent, as you continue your 40 day journey to become more Christ-like, work to be a soothing voice in a world gone mad. Respond to the rally cries with calm assurance, and let God take the duty of judgement against the wicked. It's such a liberating thing to release the need to respond to evil. Turn away from it, and focus on the Glory of God.

    Monday, March 2, 2015

    Come Forth As Gold

    Job 23:10-11

    "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed his steps; I have kept to his way without turning aside."

    What a remarkable thing for an individual to be able to say: Whenever your faith is tested, to come forth as gold! How I wish that were the case for me, and I suspect most of us feel that way.

    This is an era when it is easy to turn aside. Distractions abound. I have an iPhone, an iPad, several televisions, podcasts, Facebook and the games with friends that can all pull my attention away at a moment's notice. And some of those attention grabbing things can be pretty upsetting.

    Once the people of the world could only concern themselves with the events of their local neighborhood. It was long before we had the ability to learn news across vast distances, or had governments who could anger governments on the other side of the world, with the ability to throw hurt our way. Where once the threat was from marauding invaders in the neighborhood, threats now come from everywhere; even from space debris!

    My dreams are often filled with thousands of people. Well, last night I was singing doo-wop with Robert Downey Jr., but in most cases, I find myself plodding through throngs of people as I attempt to complete some simple task, like get back to my car. I seldom complete the task. Even in my dreams distraction from my goal is commonplace.

    I would love to be more focused on Christ and follow his steps more closely. It is a matter of discipline. I need to set aside the computers, the phones, the devices of distraction and retreat. Making that happen is going to take some lifestyle changes, but that is truly the purpose of Lent. We go through this 40 day cycle every year in order to reflect on our walk with God, and reaffirm our faith.

    When I was a child in school, (I was raised Catholic and changed to a more Protestant point of view later) Lent was a time to give up some small thing that would remind me that with each urge to have the thing I forfeited, I would be reminded of Christ. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, and I know a number of people from all denominations who do just that very thing even in their adult life.

    But Lent can be so much more. It can be a true retreat for your soul. It can be a time to really look inwardly at all the things that tug for attention, and reconsider the implications of following those urges.

    Even now, as I write this, I have three small dogs at my feet urging me to come downstairs so they can have their dinner. Don't worry. They are not starved for a meal. These three jokers have it pretty good, food-wise. But there is also another thing they bring to my party; Life. I have been entrusted with their care, and I see fulfilling that care as part of my stewardship.

    Friends and family too, have need of my time. It is important to respond to them because we all need a little soul-stroking from time to time from our friends and family.

    The point is, When we take the time to focus on our relationship with God, only then can we see the difference between the things that would distract us, and the things God would have us be and do.

    Take the next few weeks to really give Lent its due. Use the time to get back into doing what you are being called to do, and not let the distractions eat up your time. You will be happier for it, and blessed.